I began modeling when I was fifteen years old. One of the quick things I learnt in my introduction into the modeling industry was that models were to be seen and not heard. Over the years, with my model colleagues, we all know and understand this rule. In addition, I can attest to the many times I observed models’ rights violated.
If you are reading this and you are in the fashion industry, you know it is no news that models, when objectively weighed, are probably one of the most disrespected professionals within the fashion industry. From putting the health of models in danger to not rightfully compensating them to child labor violations, sexual harassment and assault, there are so many issues within the fashion modeling industry that needs a complete revamp. Over the years, models have succumbed to the mercy of their employers (modeling agencies) and the clients they serve while discussing their fears and treatment with one another. The numerous phone calls I have received over the years for counseling on these issues certainly illustrate the growing pains felt and experienced by many models.
Today, I am thrilled to see models come together to say “enough is enough!” Led by Sara Ziff, fashion model, New York models form an advocacy group/rights focused on compliance with labor and employment laws, demanding employers create a hostile free work environment and also demanding their privacy is protected when backstage during the shows. If fashion designers, producers and all across the fashion chain are to be respected and their rights preserved, why are the rights of models trampled upon?
In 2012, Sara Ziff and the rest of models join forces to say, “party over. Enough is enough. You will respect us and you will obey the law.” I frankly speaking look forward to the lawsuits because I know people don’t do things willingly, unless they are forced to through the legal justice system. Changing the mentality of an industry that is so used to getting its way when it comes to models will require not just non-profit groups but also litigation.
Now narrowing in on Africa. The way I have seen African fashion event producers and designers treat and talk to African models has left me dumbfounded. Models are spoken to and treated as if they are nothing short of stupid. Similarly, like the USA, their legal rights are trampled upon. Who cares? It is Africa, so whatever. Right? No. Wrong. Africa’s fashion industry must be a part of the solution and I intend to use this platform to point out those atrocities where it is brought to my attention and the facts are substantiated. It is a new day and a new age. Enough is enough.
I think it also makes sense at this point to acknowledge trailblazers like Iman, Tyra Banks, Heidi Klum, Beverly Johnson and Bethann Hardison, among others, who have always put the best foot forward on who models really are. These women have shown models are driven, successful entrepreneurs and have so much more to offer than a pretty face.
Read an excerpt of the Reuters article on Sara Ziff’s efforts below:
“(Reuters) – Fashion models in the United States launched a rights group on Monday ahead of New York Fashion Week to seek workplace standards including backstage privacy to stop unauthorized nude photos and a program to provide confidential advice on dealing with sexual harassment.
Model Sara Ziff, 29, who has worked since she was 14, founded the nonprofit Model Alliance because she said she has seen the industry disregard child labor laws, evade financial transparency and tolerate sexual abuse in the workplace.
“Most models start their adult careers as minors and they labor in an unregulated business knowing that they are highly replaceable,” Ziff said in a statement.
The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) said it had offered Ziff advice in starting the group. “Change comes from action and the Model Alliance can be a catalyst for change,” said CFDA chief executive Steven Kolb.
Designer Diane von Furstenberg, president of the CFDA, is working with the alliance during Fashion Week, a high-profile global fashion event which starts on Thursday, to implement a rule that clears the backstage area of photographers and non-essential staff when models have to change clothes.
Australian “plus-size” model Robyn Lawley, 22, described the Model Alliance as an amazing idea.
“So many young girls get into this industry and they have no one to protect them and having this model alliance will help girls realize they have the power, they can say no to things that make them feel uncomfortable,” Lawley said at the launch.
“I started modeling when I was 16 and I went off to shoots by myself. My parents weren’t there and sometimes you do feel very uncomfortable,” she said. “You don’t really talk about it. If you say anything you won’t get another job.”
The alliance has produced a draft bill of rights to empower models to demand fair treatment and is establishing a confidential service offering advice on how to deal with sexual harassment and abuse.
NOT COAT HANGERS
“The idea of models organizing may seem frivolous or, worse, downright funny – models are certainly not the people you picture when you think of child labor or bad working conditions,” said former model and fashion writer Jenna Sauers.
“There’s nothing funny about a work force that is overwhelmingly young, female and impoverished, working for some of fashion’s wealthiest, most powerful brands,” said Sauers, who is on the board of directors for the Model Alliance.
Ziff and Sauers said some U.S.-based models had complained about being told to lose weight, had suffered anxiety or depression and been sexually harassed.
“Many top designers pay their models in clothes – not cash. This doesn’t have to be the case. We can do better. And we can start by giving models a voice in their work. This is a new frontier of women’s rights, and workers’ rights,” Ziff said. . .” Associated Press/ Michelle Nichols
Photocredit: Sara Ziff’s photo by Anthea Simms
Ms. Uduak Oduok is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Ladybrille® Magazine. An industry insider with almost two decades of hands on extensive experience in the fashion and entertainment industry, she is also a trial attorney and has counseled a range of clients from musicians, models, actors and actresses to designers on numerous areas of the law including contracts, business law, fashion and entertainment law, copyright, trademark i.e. intellectual property law. She can be reached at (firstname.lastname@example.org) to share/pitch your Africa Fashion Law™ related stories with her. All other inquiries, please visit the www.ladybrillemag.com/contact for appropriate contact email.